By Julia Fisher
"Never in my life have I ever ran the equivalent of a half-marathon in the course of three days. Never did it previously occur to me that running could be enjoyable. Never did I feel the motivation or spirit to simply run for fun. But I guess that’s what happens when you stop thinking about what you can’t or don’t want to do and instead focus on simply moving forward — as far as you can in that moment — with the ability to turn around.
I can’t lie, there is an incentive. I signed up for Charity Miles, an App that tracks your distance for running, walking and biking and connects you to a sponsor who donates to a charity of your choice for every mile you complete. Most of the charities are international nonprofits with multi-million dollar budgets, but with amazing missions and causes, including The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I started team #LukaTheLion and “I just kept running and running,” as Forrest Gump said. I even have a white YMCA visor I wear, and I think people may start to recognize me around town as “that lady” ala Forrest’s red hat. (Hopefully, I won’t grow a beard that long.)
While the Luka The Lion Foundation — our small and brand new 501(c)(3) nonprofit to honor Luka’s spirit and raise awareness for pediatric rare diseases and support patients and their families so they never feel alone — doesn’t get any proceeds from my current streak of running through Charity Miles, we could. Just by starting a team and getting others to join and run — it helps with our application process to possibly, maybe be a charity that benefits from the app. And while that opportunity would be incredible, it’s really not even about that anymore. It’s that running to directly benefit a cause motivates me to get out and challenge myself to go as far as I can, and then simply turn around and go back.
It’s a parallel to the journey we were on with our son Luka who was born with a primary immunodeficiency disease so rare that it doesn’t even have a name and is thought by experts to be unique to him. He survived to make it to a bone marrow transplant at 15 months old, and then after many complications and much bravery, his body just couldn’t take it anymore and he couldn’t go forward anymore. Every time I stop and turn around in a run, I stop and take a moment to deeply connect with Luka and all the kids with rare diseases and their families who feel like, or can’t — turn around and keep moving."
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